My double bump on Friday

On Friday, while posting about the lady with bad Red Carpet Club etiquette (perhaps you could at least use a headset if you’re going to yell at your laptop telling your parents you want a banjo), I also mentioned I scored a $400 bump. I figured I should finish off that story.

I was supposed to attend an 8PM dinner near San Francisco Airport, and was flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I was booked on the 4:30PM flight, which was grossly oversold. There were 16 people on the “confirmed awaiting seats” list, and as far as I could tell they needed at least five volunteers. The gate agent bumped me immediately and rebooked me on the 8:30PM flight. Now, if I actually took that flight I would have missed dinner, but there was also a 6:00PM flight and a 6:45PM flight that I could stand by for, and as a 1K on a (now) full “Y” ticket, my chances of getting standby on at least one of the flights was nearly guaranteed. The 6:45PM looked especially good for standby, since it was only oversold by six (which on a 757 at United isn’t a whole lot) and I would be at the very top of the list. That would get me to San Francisco at 8:10PM, just a few minutes late for dinner, which I’m sure everyone would understand for a $400 bump.

As expected, I don’t make standby for the 6:00PM flight, though I do clear the 6:45PM flight, and am even given the best seat in coach, 8D. I boarded and all was well, until halfway through boarding, when the captain announced a problem with an indicator light. At first he made it sound very minor, but when he said we were on “decision” until 7:30PM, I knew it was much more serious. I literally haven’t had a single mechanical delay this entire year, so of course it’s gotta happen on this flight when I have a commitment immediately upon landing.

By around 7:45PM it was clear we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The gate agent came aboard and said that anyone that wanted to deplane and get on an alternate flight could do so. I mentioned to him that I was a standby on this flight and asked if I was still confirmed on the 8:30PM flight I was originally bumped to. He said as long as I’m added back to the flight at least 30 minutes before departure, absolutely. I was concerned this flight would be canceled, so at that point decided I’d be better off on the 8:30PM, which looked to be a sure thing.

I go to the gate agent and he loads me back on the 8:30PM flight, though my seat assignment was gone. Actually, there wasn’t a single seat on the plane, so I was given a departure management card. I was confirmed on the flight but awaiting a seat assignment. I get to the gate and funny enough, the gate agent is the same one that bumped me off the 4:30PM flight. She looks at me and says “we’re over, I doubt we’ll have a seat for you…. wanna bump again?”

Now this is the part where I was either making a really smart or really dumb decision. I basically already missed dinner, but I had a strategy, so stay with me here. “Sure,” I said. The last flight of the night was sold out, so she rebooked me on a 6AM flight in first class, and gave me meal and hotel vouchers. I asked if she could still put me on standby for the 10:30PM flight, which she agreed to do, despite saying that “it’s not looking good.”

My strategy was slightly different than that, though. With vouchers in hand, I headed straight back to the gate of the delayed 6:45PM flight I had originally cleared standby on. They managed to find a new plane for the flight, and the new departure time was right around 9PM, just 30 minutes after that 8:30PM flight. I go up to the very overworked gate agent and asked if it might be possible to get standby on this flight.

She responds with “we have room… what flight were you originally booked on?” I respond with “well, it’s a long story, but originally the 4:30PM.” She gives me a confused glare, so I tell her the whole story: “well, originally the 4:30PM, from which I got bumped, then I cleared standby on the flight to San Francisco, then I was confirmed onto the 8:30PM flight, though they didn’t have a seat for me, then they confirmed me on tomorrow morning’s 6AM flight, and now I’d like to get back on this one.”

With quite possibly the most confused look I’ve ever received from anyone, she said “uhhh, I’m just gonna get you on this flight.”

And sure enough, the plane left shortly after 9PM, and I made it to San Francisco by around 10:30PM, only a little more than 30 minutes after the flight I bumped off of.

So I got a bit of heat on my last post (ironically from people that weren’t attending the dinner, so I’m not sure why those people care), though let me break it down. Did I bump from a flight when I had a dinner planned? Yes, but I bumped in such a way that I would be arriving at dinner 15-20 minutes late. I think just about anyone would have done that. Did I then have the first mechanical of the year, which was entirely unforseen? Yep, guilty as charged.

Either way, it was great to see lots of you this weekend, and I quite enjoyed the flight from San Francisco to Chicago yesterday, thanks to all of you, Captain Denny, and the amazing purser (who announced on the PA that he could be identified by the floral arrangement on his lapel).

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, Travel
  1. I would not have bumped if it made me late for an engagement I had already committed to. I had that option last week, and it would have made me late for a dinner as well, with friends, and I chose not to take it.

    I wasn’t attending your dinner, but I still find it selfish.

  2. You still don’t own up to the wording of your original blog post — you have a large following, an excellent writing style and a huge future, but your opportunism in the face of a committed gathering you helped orchestrate strikes this observer as definition of crass.

    On the other hand, you sure know how to work the system

  3. @ bmvaughn — Fair enough, though most people are “fashionably late” anyway. Would anyone have had a problem if I arrived 15-20 minutes late and I were at the hotel before? It’s not like dinner started at 8PM sharp. There are always drinks first, and food isn’t served for a while.

    @ Michael — The focus of my last post wasn’t on the bump, though people made it that. I put absolutely no thought into the first sentence, and should have included a wink or something. I was confirmed on a later flight, though near certain I would get standby on an earlier flight. So yes, there was the off chance I would miss the dinner, but that risk is always there. So I take back that sentence… what else do you want me to do?

  4. I think you did the right thing, it was a calculated risk, 15-20 mins late is not a biggie. You are totally correct about “fashionably late” scenario as well.

  5. I think we are tapping into a larger issue of the social norms of working the system and how it relates to the obligations one has with job/family/friends.

    You are the most innovative blogger I have met and I guess what touched a nerve was the way in which you could discard an important event for a voucher. Now, that was not your intent, obviously. We all have the above obligations and try to manage familial and work responsibilities with the opportunities that crop up in the form of MR’s and upgrades.

    We have all faced the voucher opportunity when family or work obligations make such an offer hard to accept and it is in this light that I choose to frame the discussion, instead of your actions personally, lucky, since I think how you are living your life is just great…

  6. I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with Ben’s chosen course of action. Honestly, it’d be a tough call for me.

    But we all need to recognize that:

    A. Ben posts a LOT more real time information than any other blogger I know. This makes it wildly entertaining for all of us who are sitting at home to follow along, and occasionally arm-chair quarterback.

    B. Ben posts every comment that you leave, regardless of whether you agree with him or rip him a new one. Again, this makes for an entertaining forum and allows a lot of interesting discussion. We’ve got to remember that this KID is 21 years old, and yet he’s able to take criticism better than a lot of us, including me! (And definitely better than a lot of his fellow bloggers!)

    It would have been pretty easy for him to just have claimed ‘it was a mechanical’ or ‘I got sick at LAX’ as to why he didn’t make it to the dinner. But instead, we got the truth, and now we get to debate the merits of it. For someone who is occasionally in a similar situation, I like the discussion. And I’m not sure what I would have done in this case. (I had to pass up a bump on the way to Kauai last week, because it would have involved splitting up with my wife, and she really wanted to be with me for the flight! I caved.)

    OK, back to our regularly scheduled Lucky-bashing. Did anyone remember the tar and feathers?

  7. Congrats on “gaming the system”. When you basically con this money out of the airlines, it raises ticket prices for everyone. Not good.

  8. Wasn’t this a dinner that you yourself had planned and coordinated?

    I wouldn’t have taken the bump.

    Also, how is a mechanical delay on United “completely unforeseen”? I *assume* that my United flights are going to be late.

  9. @Steve – care to elaborate on exactly how Ben conned the airline out of anything? United had a very bad inventory management day combined with a mechanical. No doubt the airline gave out a lot of travel credits that day. But to call it a con is absurd. Chill.

  10. It is not a con at all. He games they system due to his extraordinary knowledge (use of expert flyer, etc), kindness and creativity. Nobody is forcing united to give lucky anything.

  11. @Ben your Blog is (IMO) the best out there. I think by reading your blog it is quite obvious that you are more than pasionate about this stuff and therefore it makes a lot of sense that your friends would understand your decision to take THESE bumbs at least I would.
    thanks again for all of the time you spend to keep us all inform!

  12. Hey, I’m on Team Bump here.

    I really don’t understand the blatant entitlement that ran rampant among some of the commenters on your last post, and which seems to be doing the same here. Bafflingly, it’s among people who weren’t even going to be at the dinner.

    And…the people you were going to meet were frequent flyers, right? So they understand how the whole flying thing works and that sometimes the best decisions end up having unintended consequences. Plus, I kind of assume that everyone at the dinner is an adult who can deal with the horror of being without Ben for a couple of hours.

  13. I like to maximize my earnings and rewards, but I would not do what you did.

    In my humble opinion, you’re so caught up in the game you’ve warped your priorities.

    You found it more important to secure a bump voucher for use on a future mileage run to nowhere (the destination seems to be irrelevant for most of your trips) than enjoy an evening with friends? Really?

  14. Your actions make it clear that a few hundred bucks is more important to you than your friends and commitments are. It was a subtle and perhaps defensible decision this time, but these types of decisions eventually form a pattern that is your life. If you continue to act in this manner, don’t be surprised when your friends realize it and move on to those with a value system that puts people ahead of money.

  15. Well, it’s hard to predict the future. In a slightly different timeline, he could’ve stayed on the original flight and it could have been delayed or whatever. The alternate choice was acceptable, no way to predict what would’ve happened.

    @Steve – I agree with the other Ryan, how was it conning UA out of anything? UA offers vouchers to volunteers, Lucky volunteered – what’s the issue? And VDB vouchers have nothing to do with raising ticket prices. Airlines offer them to avoid IDB payouts which are less desirable to the airline.

    A UA employee commented in a recent FT thread, that well over half of such vouchers never get used by the customer, anyway.

  16. The system is the system. If you arent playing it you are getting played. Read and learn instead of whining about social mores and other nonsense.

    Thanks for sharing Lucky and nice work.

  17. Very entertaining story – you certainly had a busy day and made the most of the situation financially.

    Also, thanks for taking the time to relate the whole thing, you put all the cards on the table for which I applaud you. Of course I was wrong it did nothing to put the debate to rest!

  18. i think it is none of the business of people who are not attending the dinner to complain whether he makes it there or not. if my friends cant make to some events because they can get a bump, i would say, good for them! frequent flyers go to places so often and meeting up somewhere is really a trivial task.

    i really admire lucky’s ability to get bumped, i never have that type of luck. perhaps, i should change my name to lucky. haha

  19. It might have been better if you had simply said you were working late (which you were, to the tune of $800).

  20. I find the rampant armchair moralizing in this thread (and the last one) truly eyes rolling.

    Thanks for the explanation Ben—interesting how it ended up.


  21. @notsolucky, I believe you are out of order. Perhaps you have correctly predicted Lucky’s future, but it isn’t for you to call him out in such a manner, especially on his own blog. Other’s may disagree with me, but that’s just my two cents.

  22. This was a dinner with Captain Denny, correct? You post about these and you invite readers interest in joining to do so. If I had been inclined and/or able to participate, I would feel mildly slighted. This is coming from the perspective of someone who does not know you personally and has never met you or any of the other attendees.

    While I’m sure the guest of honor was in attendance, the host is you. I would think etiquette dictates your presence from the start is required – especially for anyone who hadn’t yet participated in these events and who is no more than a blog reader.

    Learning the host who invited me opted for compensation with no confirmed possibility of attendance would put me off from wanting to participate in the future. Yes, you had a reasonable chance of standing by – but that’s no guarantee for anyone, 1K or not – and then it was on a flight that’s scheduled to make you late to the event in the best of circumstances seems wrong to me. There’s no wiggle room and random chance bit you this time too. All for a $400 voucher (you initially had no guarantee of second voucher).

    I’m a fan of yours, no doubt. But this whole debacle rubs me the wrong way. Would you do this for your upcoming DO / Seminar related speaking engagements? A paid engagement? If not, why hold a commitment to those but not an event you planned?

  23. @ Erik: Very reasonable and well-put. You’ve articulated my feelings better than I could. Something about it just rubs me the wrong way. I realize lucky is young and maybe this is a life lesson. When you have commitments sometimes it means doing things you don’t want to do (like taking a scheduled flight instead of taking a bump). Not to be condescending and sound like an old fart, but that’s pat of being an adult.

  24. I love your blog and learn a lot from you. Despite that, I think given that people were expecting you, taking the bump showed a lack of class. People must always come first.

  25. At issue here is the a difference in the generations.” Fashionably late” is a younger generation excuse for the behavior.

    We old timers were “on time” when we arrived 15 minutes before the appointed time. It is a matter of respect for those in attendance.

    Late is caused by “circumstances beyond your control”

  26. I think it’s really easy to pile on Ben, but I can’t fault him for what he did. I would have made the same calculated risk he made and I applaud his ingenuity and decision-making process outlined above.

    While Ben seems to be doing quite well financially, would any of you have turned down $400, let alone $800 when you were 21? Not me. Even now I wouldn’t turn it down.

    Ben got stiffed over $200 at the last Flyertalk dinner because so many douchebags left without paying or didn’t pay their whole amount. I think he was more than entitled to recoup a bit of his loss on Friday.

  27. @Matthew: BTW, I am probably one of many here who also applaud his ingenuity outlined above. That’s why we generally admire Lucky and read his blog. Further, I sincerely appreciate his willingness to come forward and toss himself to the wolves debating the issue.

    I think it’s simply a time and place issue.

    And when you talk about certain amounts ($400 or $800), his age, or “recouping from those douchebags,” the dark side of the issue really arises. Would is be OK at 25? Should he do it for $100? Does a different group’s actions have any bearing on how this one is treated?

    All of those sound more like the Churchill analogy made earlier.

  28. Look at it like this: If you didn’t know he was taking bumps, would you have been upset?

    I didn’t think so.

    He can use those bumps to make it up to people on the back end. Folks need to lighten up.

  29. Not a big deal. I was fortunate to be at the dinner. It was a pleasant evening. Sure, people wondered where Lucky was, but he did arrive at the restaurant eventually.

    An event with flyertalkers…I think many would have been as disappointed if he didn’t take the bump.

  30. I was one of the attendees of the dinner that lucky was supposed to attend.

    Somehow, I don’t know what people were pissed because lucky took $800 for VDB.

    At the dinner, we all understood why lucky took the VDB (even if you asked all the attendees, they would have done the same thing as well). So I think people should give lucky a break…

    Captain Denny would definitely understand…(but you missed all the fun…)

  31. Everyone giving Lucky a hard time here. Would you have taken the bump for $1000? For $5000? For $10,000?

  32. It’s just dinner, but I would of taken the first bump no doubt, and the way it turned out you ended up getting paid very well for it.

  33. $5,000 at least for me, hey I am a high class miles whore lol. Seriously, personally, I would have made absolutely certain to keep my meeting commitment with my friends. But, then again, in this hobby, just like George in Up in the Air, with Ben taking more bumps he will spend more time with his friends in the air because he will be surrounded:-) His explanation makes it a little easier to understand his point of view and it was a highly unusual set of circumstances present. I applaud him for giving us the whole story and taking the shots as well as he does:-) Looking forward to the trip report from this $800 bump!!

  34. I wonder if Lucky is a bit socially awkward and thus was psychologically looking for a bump. Thoughts? I mean this is a kid who doesn’t seem to have many friends or a social life, right?

  35. First of all, I want to hear about this story of FTers sticking lucky with the bill! Yikes.

    Second, Gary, I don’t know what the figure is but it would have to be pretty high for me to bail on an event that I organized. Particularly if it was a “work” event which, let’s be honest, this is for Lucky. He’s stated that he wants to make what he does now his job. Sorry, but you just don’t bail on work events because you get another VDB voucher.

    I would have a whole let less of a problem if this wasn’t a Lucky event that he came up with, organized, and advertised right here.

  36. “At the dinner, we all understood why lucky took the VDB (even if you asked all the attendees, they would have done the same thing as well)”

    And that should suffice- nobody gets to be more Catholic than the Pope.

    I relate to this: I have a standing agreement with my ex-wife (with whom I share custody of my daughter, a pretty serious commitment): I call her when they are offering VDBs and make sure it’s cool to extend her custody period into overtime, she generally OKs it, I take the VDB, and I use the VDB to take me and my daughter somewhere. I’ve even prevailed on friends over VDB/mechanicals: gotten rides from LAS to LAX (with people heading to LA), spent overnights at friends when things went pear-shaped. Your friends generally will understand you (as opposed to strangers on a blog) when it’s involving airplanes and decent-sized sums of cash, especially when they know the value involved. My ex ended up sold on the deal since her daughter’s gone to Disneyland, Mexico (CUN) and Disneyworld that way.

  37. Here’s a solution:

    Next time, organize a dinner with Captain Flanagan, but say that you won’t be there. Then, you can take a VDB and/or make a grand entrance whenever you wish! Win, win for all!

  38. Anyone else see the irony in his last post being a lecture about airport etiquette and now this?

    Anyway, it is one thing to let your addiction interfere with your real life commitments and another thing to blog about it. Either you take the bumps and don’t brag about it or you don’t take the bumps. Or you blog about it and look like an addict. As per not foreseeing the bump delay, it is United. And as you get older, relationships and time become more important.

  39. @Scholar in Training – Lucky was arrived after we paid. Also, FTers are the one who attend this event – who fully understand how VDB works (and wish they can all score several).

    Beside – Lucky has communicated with us all time when he was stuck in LAX.

    @Wonder – No. Even, this is my first time seeing Lukcy personally, he is socially engaged. And trust me – he has more friends than you can imagine.

  40. I was asked to step in as the host(ess) and took over the duties for Lucky until he arrived and I was happy to do so. Most of that work is done behind the scenes, making sure we have nametags, enough seats, the tabs from the evening come out correctly and are paid, as well as handling any last minute issue or problem that occurs.

    We all had a fabulous evening. No one at the dinner seemed to take issue with Lucky going for the bump, because as Frequent Flyers, most would have done the same.

    With all due respect to those not in attendance, I’d like to remind you that we were there to enjoy an evening with Captain Denny. He was there, as well as his F/O and another UA Captain. Captain Denny worked the room and spoke to every single person there. We were all happier than a [fill in your preferred colloquialism]…

  41. @Joseph – No, no irony there. And no bragging, either. Not once did I feel that the tone of his post was boastful or arrogant (both words used by M-W to define the word “brag”). Rather, it was straightforward and honest without being condescending, and I feel that we, as readers, should respond in kind.

  42. Lets start on a positive!

    Ben knows the system better than most. He knows how to benefit from it, and so to call it “gaming” the system is a little harsh and somewhat disrespectful! The airlines are a mess, and if they choose to oversell, Im all for anyone taking advantage of whats on offer! He writes one of the best travel blogs (ok, the best) on the web, that Ive come across. So no complaints there.

    With that said :). I was not surprised to see 52 comments, and I knew it was NOT gonna be pretty! I was slightly horrified with what I read on Saturday. It looked like the first part of the post was cut off, or…well, something was wrong. You’re a 1K member and on a full Y! No way would you have no gotten onboard if not by choice!!

    I know you are young, and when I was 21, I was flying between the UK and North America, and many other places in F and J, every 2-3 weeks, year in and year out, so I get your love of travel. At that age its exciting to jetset in luxury. But there comes a time (and Saturday night MUST serve as a lesson and wake up call to you) that you have overstepped the mark.

    IF, you put together this dinner, and did not show up, taking a bump instead (and bragging proudly and shamelessly about it on here) is beyond selfish and disgraceful! How do you think that makes others feel?? What you’re saying is that their time is not important. You had an engagement, and should have honored it. I would have been pissed!!! and you owe these people an apology!

    You collect thousands of $ in vouchers each year, and could not forgo them this time? Others have touched upon it numerous times above, but family/friends and business obligations should always come before a voucher. In this area you are incredibly immature and really need to adjust your mindset.

    I have no idea what you do for work (Im guessing you’re a student) from past comments Ive read. But your travel seems to consume your life, and this is not a life if you’re gone every single weekend. One must have time to develop a social life, have a girlfriend or boyfriend… and I assure you, you will regret these trips in later life, having taken them all by yourself….share with friends from time to time. (brothers do not count) ;).

    I believe these comments are written with love for you, or we wouldn’t waste our time. You bring joy to peoples lives with your blog, and no one wants to see your personal life and development suffer as a result!

    All the best,


  43. As someone else said and I’ll repeat, I would have very little concern if the event wasn’t something Ben had a huge hand in organizing, advertised on this blog and interested readers weren’t invited by Ben. Meaning if Ben were just an attendee, his opting for a VDB which turned into two while missing the dinner wouldn’t bother me nearly as much.

    Yes, we’re all reading this because we’re all aviation enthusiasts, afficionados, nerds, etc. But don’t assume everyone would do the same thing (take a VDB) regardless of the circumstances. FT & MP members and blog readers encompass many people of varying travel style demographics.

  44. Lucky is a great blogger, but appears to be a terrible friend.

    As one of the most selfish people on the planet, I would not have taken the bump, even for $800.

  45. I attended the DO and frankly was dissappointed & unhappy that Lucky did this. Above All, He was the organizer and promoter of this event. So he should not have have taken the bump. This showed a disrespect and lack of sincerity on his part.

    I am afraid that he will do the same thing at the seminar and am looking to cancel my attendance.

  46. @ Loss of respect — If you shoot me an email I’d love to have the opportunity to buy you dinner and apologize at your convenience, and I promise not to bump on the way there. 😉

    I thought I just about managed to meet everyone (and at least managed to touch base with those I haven’t), either at the events throughout the weekend or later that night at the restaurant, though if that’s not the case I apologize.

  47. First time reader – your blog is interesting – congratulations.

    Re: this thread; it has worked as it has attracted new readers like myself. Personally, I have no problems with you arriving late, especially if you profited from the exercise. After all, it wasn’t like you were meeting a woman alone for the first time being late without warning. Good luck kid.

  48. For those of us who are retired, but still manage to fly a number of miles each year, getting bumped is the icing on the cake. We’re in no hurry to get to where we’re going and since we live to travel, the additional perks come in handy each time we are bumped. Before 9-11, getting bumped was a way of life and happened frequently enough to make flying the overcrowded routes all the more fun.

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